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Young Blackbirds can’t overcome another slow start

LIU has been prone to slow shooting starts, but that is not what concerns coach Gail Streigler the most. She is worried about the defensive stops her team is not getting, the ones that would weather such shooting woes.

The Blackbirds found themselves in just that situation again against St. John’s on Saturday. The Red Storm made seven of their first nine shots and opened up a 16-point lead before LIU ever got going.

“We as a team have just started out real slow the last two games and have not gotten the defensive stops that we need to get,” Streigler said. “We cannot let teams hit their first two or three shots and expect to win games.”

LIU, which shot just 35.8 percent for the game, saw numerous quality shots roll off and pop out early. Its leading scorer, freshman Ashley Palmer, scored just six points as the Blackbirds fell, 65-46, to St. John’s in non-conference women’s basketball at the Wellness Center. Palmer was averaging 19.9 points coming in.

“Ashley had her first off night,” Streigler said. “You have to give St. John’s credit. They were bumping her every time she went into the lain. They found her every time in the zone and they found her every time in transition. Every single play that we ran she had two people on her.”

LIU got 15 points from sophomore Chelsi Johnson and cut the St. John’s lead to 25-18 with 3:48 remaining before halftime. St. John’s used a big second-half run led by Kelly McManmon (17 points) to pull away.

Streigler, who was an assistant at Georgia State last season, has few holdovers from a team that went 24-8 and set a school record for wins. She also spent eight seasons as the head coach at Central Florida, compiled a 106-128 record and won three straight Atlantic Sun titles. Streigler replaced Stephanie Gaitely, who is now the head coach at Monmouth.

LIU is now 4-6 and has lost three straight. Johnson, who was an NEC All-Rookie selection a year ago, doesn’t want to think about the Blackbirds’ past success; she wants to work toward getting this young squad to be a consistent winner.

“I think we are good – we are not thinking about the team from last year,” she said. “We are not trying to compare. We are just trying to come out and play hard with what we have. We are capable of winning. We are capable of being that team and we are. We just have to learn from our mistakes.”

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